It's a simple equation: Johnny Dawkins returns, Stanford basketball suffers

Jeff Gross

Bernard Muir's first big decision as Athletic Director could have changed the program for the better. Instead, he's resigned it to another year of failure.

The best moment of the Johnny Dawkins experience occurred in the NIT semifinals.

That might say it all, but I'll say much more: a football player telling an audience to be pissed off for greatness was awesome. Occurring in the NIT? Not...so much. That's not the point, though. The point is: Ray Lewis was right that you need to be pissed off for greatness. As a coach, Johnny Dawkins is at best mildly perturbed for above averageness. So bring him back! That's the bizarre conclusion revealed today, in a classic Friday afternoon news dump.

That's what you do with bad news.

And clearly AD Bernard Muir realizes it, on some level. Otherwise, why the "win-or-else" ultimatum?

Unfortunately, a win-or-else ultimatum is a folly so strange and untethered from what we think is reality that there must be some other consideration. You give a guy more time when you think you don't have a sufficient sample, and when risking a year is an acceptable opportunity cost to pay. If doubt really existed, then it shouldn't be necessary to offer an ultimatum. Instead, the ultimatum concedes the point: Dawkins should be fired.

There are costs for this decision. For one, it means that the rising senior class will never play for a competent coach. It means Chasson Randle will at best get one year of competent coaching.

Then there's the credibility problem. Giving a win-or-else ultimatum puts public uncertainty into the entire equation, for players, recruits and fans. And perception -- credibility -- is one of the most important assets as a coach. A recruit signing on to Stanford football knows that David Shaw will be his coach as long as David Shaw wants to coach him. A recruit signing with Stanford women's basketball knows Tara VanDerveer is her coach for as long as VanDerveer wants to coach her. A recruit signing on to Stanford basketball has zippo idea of who's coaching him throughout his career. So why would that recruit choose Stanford over any other credible school? This might be a relatively minor problem if there were one senior. ATTN Muir: there are four. As we know from other lame-duck situations, recruits are awfully reluctant to commit to dead men walking (they tend to die). So there's a risk of getting one so-so player to fill four spots, impacting the program negatively for years to come. Bringing Dawkins back is an excellent way to ruin next year, and hurt the next four years too.

And all of that before you say something of the fanbase. Maples was once a wonderful atmosphere. Now the atmosphere is dead air. How will you sell the fans on this lame-duck, dead-man program? Again, to turn to other programs -- if you are a fan attending a Stanford football or women's basketball game, you know you will see an exciting national championship contender playing hard and executing well. A fan going to a Stanford basketball game may see new exciting methods of blowing basketball games (can you believe they lost a game by fouling a halfcourt shooter in the final seconds? I'm still cleaning brain splatter from having my mind blown); but ultimately, will see dispiriting play and indifferent execution.

This is pretty obvious. So unless there's some unknown factor here, the most disappointing new fact is Muir -- it's time to stop suspending judgment: bringing back an incompetent is in itself incompetent.

Anyway, just watch this:

And realize that atmosphere, that excitement, is gone, for the foreseeable future. Thanks Johnny and Bernard!

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